Basser Seminar Series

Service Learning by Engaging Older Adults: Transforming Engineering Education, Student Attitudes, and the Self-Efficacy of Our Elder Neighbors

Speaker: Lynn Andrea Stein *
Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science/Associate Dean
Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Massachusetts, USA

Time: Friday 17 January 2014, 11am-12pm

Location: The University of Sydney, Engineering Link Building, Faculty Conference Room

**Note different location

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Engineering for Humanity is an interdisciplinary anthropology/engineering design course that partners students with older adults from the neighboring community to design and build solutions to the elders’ everyday problems. Students and their elder partners engage in a series of activities designed to bring them together and to create a community; students also experience a curriculum focused on ethnographic methods and engineering design. This talk describes the course rationale and its design, analyzing its impacts on the students and the elder community partners. By the end of the semester, several of our volunteers have received specific, custom-designed artifacts intended to solve particular problems. More significantly, all of our volunteers report increased sense of belonging and value gained from being a part of this community. Students report an increased understanding of the lives of elders and point to specific attitudes or assumptions that changed during the semester. Approximately one-third of students express a change in career trajectory or major as a result of the class.

* This work has been carried out in collaboration with Prof. Caitrin Lynch and the Aging Research Group at Olin College, with support from the Metrowest Health Foundation.

Speaker's biography

Lynn Andrea Stein is a founding faculty member of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, where she is Professor of Computer and Cognitive Science and Associate Dean and Director of the Collaboratory. Stein's research, at Olin since 2000 and over the prior decade on the faculty of MIT, spans the fields of artificial intelligence, programming languages, and human-computer interaction. She is a co-author of the foundational documents of the semantic web and the "mother" of a humanoid robot and an intelligent room. Stein is also active in the engineering and computer science education communities, a member of curricular advisory boards, and a frequent speaker at educational conferences on work including pioneering curricular applications of inexpensive robotics, an innovative curriculum for introductory computer science, and curricular change processes with academia. In 2009, Stein was named the founding director of Olin's Initiative for Innovation in Engineering Education (now Olin’s Collaboratory).